Anchorage: Wear a Mask, Socially Distance, and Wash Your Hands or a Second Hunker Down Is on the Horizon
The orders go into effect on Monday, November 9, 2020 at 8 a.m.
It’s not news that there’s been a huge uptick in documented cases of COVID-19 in Alaska. In fact, according to Heather Harris, director of the Anchorage Health Department, the city’s current reproductive number is 1.16.
Tom Hennesy, medical doctor and infectious disease epidemiologist at the UAA College of Health, explained at a November 6 community briefing that “The reproductive number is an average measure of how many people each COVID-19 case will go on to infect. So any number over 1 means the epidemic is growing, any number less than 1 means that it’s shrinking.”
In that same November 6 community briefing, hosted by Quinn-Davidson, Harris provided the following data about COVID-19 cases in the municipality:
- There are 9,004 confirmed cases
- There have been 51 deaths, including 4 last week
- 1,780 individuals are presumed infectious
- The 14-day case rate average per 100,000 people is 60.4 (a 30 percent increase from the previous week)
- 47 percent of tests are positive
- 54 people confirmed to have the virus have been hospitalized (as of the community briefing)
She followed these data with thia plea: “It is incredibly important that we as a community remember to wear our mask, watch our distance, and wash our hands.”
Hennessy agreed that these simple but vital steps can help address the spread of the virus. “These emergency orders fit with what we know about the transmission of the virus and how it spreads and how to slow and stop its spread.”
He continued: “We have reason for optimism in our current situation despite the rising case numbers… If we could reduce our reproductive number from its current level just by 15 percent we would get transmission down in Anchorage to the point where case numbers would shrink on a daily basis and we’d have fewer illnesses and fewer hospitalizations… A 15 percent reduction in transmissions can be accomplished by individual action.”
Avoid the Three Cs
- Crowded places
- Close-contact settings (especially with close-range conversations)
- Confined and enclosed spaces (especially with poor ventilation)
Know Your Ws
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
- Watch your distance: stay six feet apart and avoid close contact
- Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer
However—and it’s a big however—if the numbers don’t get better tighter restrictions are looming in Anchorage’s future. “We’re hoping that Alaskans will step up and do the right thing and follow the mandates and that we’ll be able to get through this,” Quinn-Davidson said. “If we did have a hunker down, it has significant consequences for businesses and other entities in the community. So what we’re trying to do is work collaboratively with Alaskans to just get them to see that this is the way we support our kids and our businesses.
“In the next couple weeks, if we don’t see a significant change because of individual actions, we’re headed for some pretty significant restrictions, and that’s just the way it’s going to be, unfortunately.”
To support local businesses that often bear the burden of enforcing mask mandates and as an indication of the city’s drive to address skyrocketing numbers, Quinn-Davidson announced that her office is planning to hire three code enforcement officers. “We will be beefing up our enforcement… we’ll be supporting our local business and making sure that folks follow the health mandates,” she said.
More About the Orders
Per the Office of the Acting Mayor: “Emergency Order EO-13v3 removes most exceptions to the face covering requirement, which will make it easier for businesses and the Municipality of Anchorage to enforce.The order requires individuals who cannot tolerate wearing a face covering due to disability to wear a face shield instead, unless it is impossible to do so, or to seek alternate accommodations such as curbside pick-up, take-out, or delivery. The order also extends the mask requirement to all school-age children over five years old, and to individuals exercising at indoor facilities.
“Emergency Order EO-14v3 restricts the size of indoor gatherings with food and drink to 10 people, indoor gatherings without food and drink to 15 people, outdoor gatherings with food and drink to 20 people, and outdoor gatherings without food and drink to 30 people. The order places capacity limits on classrooms, and sets guidelines for team sports, including a requirement that players wear face coverings while practicing and competing indoors. The order also sets guidelines for indoor shopping events, such as holiday bazaars.”
The Acting Mayor’s Office also provided several attachments with more detailed information:
- Attachment a Operating Criteria – Hospitality
- Attachment b Operating Criteria – Organized Sports
- Attachment c Operating Criteria – Indoor Shopping Special Events
- Attachment d Operating Criteria – Fitness
In This Issue
Alaska Problems Require Alaska Solutions
On January 16, a fire destroyed the water plant and washeteria in the southwest Alaska village of Tuluksak. For the village of about 350 people, it was a devastating blow. The water plant was the only source of drinking water in the village, in which the primarily Yup’ik residents lack indoor plumbing and rely on honey buckets, not uncommon in the flat, swampy region.